While little is known of St. Patrick’s early life, historians have determined that he was born into a wealthy family in Britain in the fourth century. His father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest in the Christian church. When he was only 16 years old, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and whisked away to Ireland where he was put into bondage as a slave. He was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast where he boarded a ship bound for Britain. On his return home, he joined the church and studied to be a priest.
In the year 432, Patrick was, by his own admission, called by God to return to Ireland to Christianize the pagan Irish. His evangelistic efforts continued for 30 years, during which time he used the shamrock, which was plentiful, to explain the aforementioned Holy Trinity. He died on March 17, 461 and although there have been many other successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in great esteem in the Irish church.
In the early seventeenth century, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, was made an official feast day and is observed by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran Churches. However, it has gradually become more of a secular celebration of Irishness and Irish culture. The day generally involves public parades, festivals and wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day.
My father, Dr. J. W. Nolan, proud of his Irish heritage, never failed to obtain a small shamrock made of bent wire and covered with green silk thread, for each of his children. On St. Patrick’s Day, he pinned them on the collars of his four children very ceremoniously, a tradition which he never failed to observe during his lifetime. As we trekked off to school “wearing the green,” we were instructed to wish our classmates and teachers “Erin go Braugh” which means “Ireland Forever.”
Remember this coming Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day. It is my fondest wish that you will partake of corned beef and cabbage, pin a shamrock on your lapel, and if you’re physically fit, by all means dance an Irish jig. Erin go Braugh!